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16 de maig de 2013

Catalonia and Scotland

Pete Wishart (Dunfermline, Scotland, 1962)
SNP Member of Parliament for Perth and North Perthshire

Dear Pete,

First of all I apologise for the delay in writing. It’s now over a month since we met in Barcelona and until now I haven’t had time to comment on your excellent blog's entry on Scotland and Catalonia, which you kindly asked me to do. Our country is buzzing with political activity. The momentous times we are living through require great effort and energy. Fortunately many Catalans are making a determined and enthusiastic commitment. 

As we commented and as you explain so well in what you then wrote, the cases of Scotland and Catalonia are ostensibly different in spite of being two ancient European countries incorporated into liberal democracies and now totally committed to achieving national sovereignty:

  • The most recent opinion poll (the first four monthly poll for 2013 by the CEO -Centre of Opinion Polls- for the Generalitat) shows that a clear majority of Catalans favours an independent Catalonia (54.7% as opposed to 20.7% against). Even though we must interpret these figures with great care, it is obvious that a significant number of Catalan citizens want full sovereignty for their country and claim the right to express their wishes in a plebiscite. This contrasts with 35% of Scots currently in favour of independence.
  • To achieve this there is no doubt about the central role played by the SNP (Scottish National Party) and the indisputable leadership of the First Minister, Alex Salmond. The political reality in Catalonia is much more complex. Unlike the case of the SNP, here there are three political parties with parliamentary representation, none of which has an absolute majority, which, explicitly, have as part of their electoral programme the creation of the state of Catalonia: CDC (Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya), ERC (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya), and CUP (Candidatura d’Unitat Popular). There are three more parties which support a referendum for independence: UDC (Unió Democràtica de Catalunya), PSC (Partit Socialista de Catalunya), and ICV (Iniciativa per Catalunya Verds). Of the total of 135 seats in the Catalan Parliament there are 74 MPs in favour of independence, 107 in favour of a referendum to decide, and only 28 against the right to decide: PP (Partit Popular) and C’s (Ciutadans). So the ratio between MPs in favour of independence and those against is strongly in favour of the Yes vote. There are two leaders for an Independent Catalonia: the President of the Catalan government, Artur Mas (CDC), and the leader of the opposition, Oriol Junqueras (ERC). Following the latest Catalan elections on the 25 November 2012, these two parties made a governing agreement, including, among other objectives, that of celebrating a referendum for independence during the course of 2014.
  • The prevailing tendency of Catalans to vote for parties in favour of independence is, therefore, noticeable. But unlike Scotland, where there is a left-wing majority, Catalonia has disparate ideologies. The two majority parties, CiU (the coalition party CDC + UDC) with 50 seats and ERC with 21, represent a broad spectrum between the political centre right and centre left. This means, among other things, that messages in favour of independence in Catalonia cannot be slanted too much to the left, or too much to the right, because of this marked ideological plurality.
  • In clear contrast with the Scottish process, which is driven primarily by a political group, in Catalonia people not politicians are the driving force for independence. In the last four years a large number of bodies in favour of sovereignty and thousands of anonymous citizens have dedicated themselves to contributing their grain of sand to the Catalan cause. Our political class has had to make every effort to follow, often from a long way behind, this popular movement, which threatened to sweep over it with the force of a tsunami. The massive demonstration in Barcelona on 11 September 2012 (Catalan National Day) when over one and a half million citizens (20% of the total Catalan population of seven and a half million) gathered together to demand independence is a convincing example of this.
  • Although Scottish society and SNP politicians do not show as pronounced a euro scepticism as their English counterparts, a considerable part of public opinion views coldly, or even with serious reservations, the possibility of an independent Scotland as part of the European Union or the European monetary system. In Catalonia it is quite the opposite. Enthusiasm for European politics is the norm. In fact the political parties in favour of independence have worked hard to associate an independent Catalonia with the possibility of having its own voice and therefore more impact in each and every European ambit, including the Euro Zone. This, in turn, means that those against independence consider it in their interests to cast a shadow over the admission of an independent Catalonia into the European Union.
  • But, of all the differences expressed above, the one which better shows that Catalonia and Scotland are really on two different courses is the disparity between the democratic culture of the state of Spain and that of the United Kingdom. In spite of the fact that a majority of the Catalan people clamours insistently to bring about a democratic plebiscite, the Spanish government has locked and bolted the door to any possible dialogue. The lack of Spanish political will contrasts with the attitude of the British executive expressed, in black and white, in the Edinburgh Agreement signed on 15 October 2012 allowing a referendum in the autumn of next year. Spanish politicians are using all legal and jurisprudential means to obstruct any chances for Catalan self-determination. Recently the Constitutional Tribunal took the precautionary measure of suspending the Declaration of Sovereignty adopted by our Parliament on 22 January 2012. It has also been announced that the law permitting popular consultations, but not referenda, currently in process will be revoked based on 2008 jurisprudence for the Basque Consultation Law. The intransigent Spanish attitude contrasts painfully with the open character and strictly democratic respect of the British government.

These are critical times for Catalans, as I am sure you grasped during your recent visit to Barcelona. The Catalan people have managed to maintain hope and faith in the outcome of the last three hundred years, in spite of the circumstances, and have the firm determination to decide their collective future in a peaceful and democratic way very soon. I remain optimistic.

I wish you all the best in your political task.

Yours sincerely,

Barcelona, 16 May 2013

El debat sobre la creació d'un Estat independent - The debate on building an independent State

El debat sobre la creació d'un Estat independent - The debate on building an independent State
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